You are currently viewing Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) Optimization: Optimize Your Resume Now (+ 4 Secrets for a Strong Match Score).

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) Optimization: Optimize Your Resume Now (+ 4 Secrets for a Strong Match Score).

Last Updated on November 1, 2022 by

Are you currently applying for a job or intend to apply for one? if Yes, then we believe that you understand the power and impact of the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Regardless of your field or profession, ATS stands out as the automated “bad guy” that stands between you and your next job opportunity.

According to Capterra, at least 75 percent of recruiters and hiring professionals are using applicant tracking systems. Further, 94 percent of both hiring and recruiting professionals approve of the positive impact of ATS scanners or recruiting software.


Jenny Foss (a Career strategist, speaker, and recruiter) admits that most job applicants don’t know what ATS is, how it works, and what they need to do to make it through the process and move to the next stage of human reviewers.

In this article, we will share with you easy-to-understand information on:

The Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

The ATS represents a software that gives companies the ability to manage as well as track job applications efficiently. The software makes their hiring process consistent and ensures that they are compliant with labor laws.

Related article: ATS Friendly Resume: The Definitive Guide

How the Applicant Tracking System Works

In brief, when you apply for a job online, the ATS pulls in all of your files (e.g., resume, cover letter, and additional resources) and parses the information into data fields.


The system then scans the data fields and decides the best matches for any position. If the system dubs you as the most suitable match (strong match), you move to the next stage. If it doesn’t! Then your job application documents are rejected.

What Does the System Look For?


They are a major influencer in determining the chances of being identified as a strong match. This means that you have to get everything RIGHT.

You have to weave in the correct keywords into your resume since this will maximize the odds of being identified as a strong fit by the Applicant Tracking Systems. Further, correct/ relevant keywords will maximize the odds of being selected by the recruiter as a strong fit and probably secure the opportunity for an interview.

Recommended Exercise: print a copy of the job description document. Go through the document at least 3 times (first time identify and highlight the required hard skills, second time identify and highlight the soft skills, and in the third step identify and highlight the action verbs (e.g., collaborate, lead, troubleshooting etc.).

Additional Criteria


Professional career experts such as Jenny Foss have admittedly indicated that “70 to 75% of applicant resumes get screened out by applicant tracking systems. However, this should not discourage you!

This guide will place you in the 25 to 30 percent group of job applicants who make it to the next process. The Bottom line is GTJResume is passionate about you landing that job you have always wanted, and we will do anything in our capacity to make that happen.

Here is what you should know…Besides keywords, the ATS is looking for:

 Job Title

For instance, you might be looking for a job as a sales manager, and that is the role that your current workplace recognizes. However, the position you are applying for recognizes the position as a sales executive. In such a situation, you can call yourself a sales manager/ executive on your resume.

This will make it easier for the human reviewer to understand how you connect the two roles.

Certificates and Licenses


The job description might list different specialties based on your profession in most instances. For instance, if the job description for a graphic designer post lists software specialization such as Adobe Creative Suite (ACS), make sure you are using ACS in your resume. This makes it easier to detect the match when using the scanning software (Applicant Tracking Systems).

Educational Requirements


If your job description lists a requirement for a specific degree, maybe a bachelor’s degree, and you have an associate’s degree. Then, you will not have a strong match in the eyes of the ATS.

However, this does not mean that you fail to apply for the job. In such a situation, find out if you can apply for the job directly. Applicant Tracking Systems algorithms are based on a yes or no approach. On the other hand, humans (recruiters) can detect gray areas. In this regard, it would be better to get to them directly.

Here is what YOU should know about Applicant Tracking Systems; once you understand what they are looking for, the better you are at restructuring your resume in a way that will guarantee the best score and move you forward to the next process.

Crucial Factors that Can Trip Up the ATS

The ATS technology is still evolving. This means that it is still far from perfect. However, ensuring your resume is ATS ready gives you an edge.

Here are the 3 recommended aspects of ATS ready Resume:


  • Tables and columns

This is SIMPLE… leave them, and here’s why. Applicant Tracking Systems read top to bottom, left to the right. In this perspective, multiple columns or tables embedded in the resume can affect its ability to read and categorize your information into data files properly.

  • Headers and footers

This case is common in your contact information. Based on the several resumes that we have received for critiquing purposes and possible revamp, job applicants, tend to place their contact information at the top of the resume (headers section).

However, based on how Applicant Tracking Systems digest your information, this approach could be dangerous. The bottom line is…. just put your contact information in your regular resume space. You can format it in a way that appeals by making it bold or centered but do not embed it in the header section.

  • Section Titles

Ensure that your section titles are straightforward. This is what we mean, use titles such as summary, professional experience, and key skills instead of “who I am” or “where I have worked.”

NOTE: you should avoid fancy formatting, graphics, and photos.


It is understandable that in most resumes, applicants would want to use a font that reflects their personality unless otherwise. However, it would be best to be careful not to choose a font that applicant tracking systems can’t read, as this will limit your chances of an interview.

Just pick a standard font, either serif or sans serif fonts.


Logo, Graphics, and Photos

This will be as simple as; if you have used graphics and photos on your resume and are planning to use them to apply for jobs through the online application systems, remove them. Or, you can create a second resume that contains all these extras.

The Best Type of Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

After reading all the aforementioned information about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), you may want to begin creating or editing your resume.

Here are the 3 basic styles for a resume that you should consider

  1. Reverse chronological format: begins with your current or most recent job and goes back to your earliest role that you would like to share on your resume (you provide job details along the way).
  2. Functional Resume: lists the key accomplishments as well as your skill set at the top of your resume.
  3. Hybrid resume: this style is a combination of the aforementioned two. As such, you feature key skills and experiences.

For the applicant tracking systems and the human reviewer, it is advisable that you use the hybrid format.

Here is the reason why: the style makes it easier for the human reviewer to see the right up-front information. As for the ATS, it improves the readability and scanning process.

NOTE: You can as well use a reverse chronological style/ format, and it will work well for the Applicant Tracking System. However, in this case, the problem will be for the human reviewers and thus may sell yourself short.

We wouldn’t recommend a functional resume since the applicant tracking systems will not be able to read your information. Further, most recruiters don’t want to see the functional resume since they want to know “what you did where , and when.”

In this regard, try always to use the Hybrid format.

Top 4 Tools for optimizing your resume

GTJResume Scanner: offers industry-leading resume scan and critique services.

Cultivated Culture: offers one of the best free resume-building tools. also offers a similar tool, and one can download a free text file.

Jobscan: simulates the ATS

4 Secrets for Increasing Match Score

  • Keywords: make sure that the most prominent keywords and buzzwords (recommended ones) from the job description are centered on your resume.
  • Titles: the applicant tracking system looks for applicants with similar/ progressive titles.

For instance, when applying for a job as a marketing executive. However, your current company identifies you as a content manager. In this situation, it would be prudent for you to change the title on your resume to marketing manager. Note, it should be honest for you to do so. This action will make it easier for recruiters to understand your job position and guarantee a higher match score with Applicant Tracking Systems.

  • Degree: if a job requires you to have a degree and you do not have one, it would be appropriate for you not to apply for the job using the online application process or through the ATS. Such action will adversely affect your match score.

In such a situation, you need to identify another way of getting the intention of the company/organization.

  • Resume Structure: the Applicant Tracking System will experience difficulties in reading your resume when you go too far in terms of structure, photos, fonts, and graphics.

Here is the Bottom line, keep your resume straightforward.

In this article, we have covered everything you need to know about Applicant Tracking Systems. “The Ball is now on your court.” Go ahead and make your resume ATS-ready. If you need help click here. We will be ready to help.


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